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← Floating cities, the LEGO House and other architectural forms of the future

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Showing Revision 7 created 06/03/2019 by Brian Greene.

  1. My mom has always reminded me
  2. that I have the same
    proportions as a LEGO man.
  3. (Laughter)

  4. And she does actually have a point.

  5. LEGO is a company that has succeeded
  6. in making everybody believe
    that LEGO is from their home country.
  7. But it's not, it's from my home country.
  8. So you can imagine my excitement
    when the LEGO family called me
  9. and asked us to work with them
    to design the Home of the Brick.
  10. This is the architectural model --
    we built it out of LEGO, obviously.
  11. This is the final result.

  12. And what we tried to do was to design
  13. a building that would be as interactive
    and as engaging and as playful
  14. as LEGO is itself,
  15. with these kind of interconnected
    playgrounds on the roofscape.
  16. You can enter a square on the ground
  17. where the citizens of Billund
    can roam around freely without a ticket.
  18. And it's probably one of the only
    museums in the world
  19. where you're allowed
    to touch all the artifacts.
  20. But the Danish word for design
    is "formgivning," which literally means

  21. to give form to that
    which has not yet been given form.
  22. In other words,
    to give form to the future.
  23. And what I love about LEGO
    is that LEGO is not a toy.
  24. It's a tool that empowers the child
    to build his or her own world,
  25. and then to inhabit
    that world through play
  26. and to invite her friends to join her
    in cohabiting and cocreating that world.
  27. And that is exactly what formgivning is.
  28. As human beings, we have the power
    to give form to our future.
  29. Inspired by LEGO,

  30. we've built a social housing
    project in Copenhagen,
  31. where we stacked blocks
    of wood next to each other.
  32. Between them, they leave spaces
    with extra ceiling heights and balconies.
  33. And by gently wiggling the blocks,
  34. we can actually create curves
    or any organic form,
  35. adapting to any urban context.
  36. Because adaptability is probably one
    of the strongest drivers of architecture.
  37. Another example is here in Vancouver.

  38. We were asked to look at the site
    where Granville bridge triforks
  39. as it touches downtown.
  40. And we started, like,
    mapping the different constraints.
  41. There's like a 100-foot
    setback from the bridge
  42. because the city want to make sure
  43. that no one looks
    into the traffic on the bridge.
  44. There's a park where
    we can't cast any shadows.
  45. So finally, we're left with a tiny
    triangular footprint,
  46. almost too small to build.
  47. But then we thought, like,
  48. what if the 100-foot minimum distance
    is really about minimum distance --
  49. once we get 100 feet up in the air,
    we can grow the building back out.
  50. And so we did.
  51. When you drive over the bridge,

  52. it's as if someone is pulling
    a curtain aback,
  53. welcoming you to Vancouver.
  54. Or a like a weed growing
    through the cracks in the pavement
  55. and blossoming as it gets light and air.
  56. Underneath the bridge,
    we've worked with Rodney Graham
  57. and a handful of Vancouver artists,
  58. to create what we called
    the Sistine Chapel of street art,
  59. an art gallery turned upside down,
  60. that tries to turn the negative
    impact of the bridge into a positive.
  61. So even if it looks like
    this kind of surreal architecture,
  62. it's highly adapted to its surroundings.
  63. So if a bridge can become a museum,
    a museum can also serve as a bridge.

  64. In Norway, we are building a museum
    that spans across a river
  65. and allows people to sort of journey
    through the exhibitions
  66. as they cross from one side
    of a sculpture park to the other.
  67. An architecture sort of
    adapted to its landscape.
  68. In China, we built a headquarters
    for an energy company

  69. and we designed the facade
    like an Issey Miyake fabric.
  70. It's rippled, so that facing
    the predominant direction of the sun,
  71. it's all opaque;
  72. facing away from the sun, it's all glass.
  73. On average, it sort of transitions
    from solid to clear.
  74. And this very simple idea
    without any moving parts
  75. or any sort of technology,
  76. purely because
    of the geometry of the facade,
  77. reduces the energy consumption
    on cooling by 30 percent.
  78. So you can say what makes
    the building look elegant
  79. is also what makes it perform elegantly.
  80. It's an architecture
    that is adapted to its climate.
  81. You can also adapt one culture to another,

  82. like in Manhattan, we took
    the Copenhagen courtyard building
  83. with a social space
    where people can hang out
  84. in this kind of oasis
    in the middle of a city,
  85. and we combined it with the density
    and the verticality
  86. of an American skyscraper,
  87. creating what we've called
    a "courtscraper."
  88. From New York to Copenhagen.

  89. On the waterfront of Copenhagen,
  90. we are right now finishing this
    waste-to-energy power plant.
  91. It's going to be the cleanest
    waste-to-energy power plant in the world,
  92. there are no toxins
    coming out of the chimney.
  93. An amazing marvel of engineering
    that is completely invisible.
  94. So we thought, how can we express this?
  95. And in Copenhagen
    we have snow, as you can see,
  96. but we have absolutely no mountains.
  97. We have to go six hours by bus
    to get to Sweden,
  98. to get alpine skiing.
  99. So we thought,
    let's put an alpine ski slope
  100. on the roof of the power plant.
  101. So this is the first test run
    we did a few months ago.
  102. And what I like about this
  103. is that it also show you the sort of
    world-changing power of formgivning.
  104. I have a five-month-old son,
  105. and he's going to grow up in a world
  106. not knowing that there was ever a time
  107. when you couldn't ski
    on the roof of the power plant.
  108. (Laughter)

  109. (Applause)

  110. So imagine for him and his generation,
    that's their baseline.

  111. Imagine how far they can leap,
  112. what kind of wild ideas
    they can put forward for their future.
  113. So right in front of it,
    we're building our smallest project.

  114. It's basically nine containers
  115. that we have stacked
    in a shipyard in Poland,
  116. then we've schlepped it
    across the Baltic sea
  117. and docked it in the port of Copenhagen,
  118. where it is now the home of 12 students.
  119. Each student has a view to the water,
  120. they can jump out the window
    into the clean port of Copenhagen,
  121. and they can get back in.
  122. All of the heat comes
    from the thermal mass of the sea,
  123. all the power comes from the sun.
  124. This is the first 12 units in Copenhagen,
  125. another 60 on their way,
  126. another 200 are going to Gothenburg,
  127. and we're speaking with the Paris Olympics
  128. to put a small floating
    village on the Seine.
  129. So very much this kind of, almost like
    nomadic, impermanent architecture.
  130. And the waterfronts of our cities
    are experiencing a lot of change.

  131. Economic change, industrial change
    and climate change.
  132. This is Manhattan before Hurricane Sandy,
  133. and this is Manhattan after Sandy.
  134. We got invited by the city of New York
  135. to look if we could make the necessary
    flood protection for Manhattan
  136. without building a seawall
  137. that would segregate the life
    of the city from the water around it.
  138. And we got inspired by the High Line.
  139. You probably know the High Line --
    it's this amazing new park in New York.
  140. It's basically decommissioned train tracks
  141. that now have become one of the most
    popular promenades in the city.
  142. So we thought,

  143. could we design the necessary
    flood protection for Manhattan
  144. so we don't have to wait
    until we shut it down before it gets nice?
  145. So we sat down with the citizens
    living along the waterfront of New York,
  146. and we worked with them to try
    to design the necessary flood protection
  147. in such a way that it only
    makes their waterfront
  148. more accessible and more enjoyable.
  149. Underneath the FDR,
    we are putting, like, pavilions
  150. with pocket walls that can slide out
    and protect from the water.
  151. We are creating little stepped terraces
  152. that are going to make
    the underside more enjoyable,
  153. but also protect from flooding.
  154. Further north in the East River Park,
  155. we are creating rolling hills
  156. that protect the park
    from the noise of the highway,
  157. but in turn also become
    the necessary flood protection
  158. that can stop the waves during
    an incoming storm surge.
  159. So in a way, this project
    that we have called the Dryline,
  160. it's essentially the High Line --
  161. (Laughter)

  162. The High Line that's
    going to keep Manhattan dry.

  163. (Applause)

  164. It's scheduled to break ground
    on the first East River portion

  165. at the end of this year.
  166. But it has essentially been codesigned
  167. with the citizens of Lower Manhattan
  168. to take all of the necessary
    infrastructure for resilience
  169. and give it positive social
    and environmental side effects.
  170. So, New York is not alone
    in facing this situation.

  171. In fact, by 2050,
  172. 90 percent of the major
    cities in the world
  173. are going to be dealing with rising seas.
  174. In Hamburg,
  175. they've created a whole neighborhood
  176. where the bottom floors are designed
    to withstand the inevitable flood.
  177. In Sweden, they've designed a city
    where all of the parks are wet gardens,
  178. designed to deal with storm water
    and waste water.
  179. So we thought, could we perhaps --
  180. Actually, today,

  181. three million people are already
    permanently living on the sea.
  182. So we thought, could we actually
    imagine a floating city
  183. designed to incorporate all
    of the Sustainable Development Goals
  184. of the United Nations
  185. into a whole new human-made ecosystem.
  186. And of course, we have to design it
    so it can produce its own power,
  187. harvesting the thermal mass of the oceans,
  188. the force of the tides,
    of the currents, of the waves,
  189. the power of the wind,
  190. the heat and the energy of the sun.
  191. Also, we are going to collect
    all of the rain water that drops
  192. on this man-made archipelago
  193. and deal with it organically
    and mechanically
  194. and store it and clean it.
  195. We have to grow all of our food locally,
  196. it has to be fish- and plant-based,
  197. because you won't have the space
    or the resources for a dairy diet.
  198. And finally,
  199. we are going to deal
    with all the waste locally,
  200. with compost, recycling,
    and turning the waste into energy.
  201. So imagine where a traditional
    urban master plan,

  202. you typically draw the street grid
    where the cars can drive
  203. and the building plots
    where you can put some buildings.
  204. This master plan, we sat down
    with a handful of scientists
  205. and basically started
    with all of the renewable,
  206. available natural resources,
  207. and then we started channeling
    the flow of resources
  208. through this kind of human-made ecosystem
    or this kind of urban metabolism.
  209. So it's going to be modular,
  210. it's going to be buoyant,
  211. it's going to be designed
    to resist a tropical storm.
  212. You can prefabricate it at scale,
  213. and tow it to dock with others,
    to form a small community.
  214. We're designing these
    kind of coastal additions,
  215. so that even if it's modular and rational,
  216. each island can be unique
    with its own coastal landscape.
  217. The architecture
    has to remain relatively low
  218. to keep the center of gravity buoyant.
  219. We're going to take all of the agriculture
  220. and use it to also create social space
  221. so you can actually enjoy
    the permaculture gardens.
  222. We're designing it for the tropics,
    so all of the roofs are maximized
  223. to harvest solar power
    and to shade from the sun.
  224. All the materials are going to be
    light and renewable,
  225. like bamboo and wood,
  226. which is also going to create
    this charming, warm environment.
  227. And any architecture is supposed
    to be able to fit on this platform.
  228. Underneath we have all the storage
    inside the pontoon,
  229. almost like a mega version
    of the student housings
  230. that we've already worked with.
  231. We have all the storage
    for the energy that's produced,
  232. all of the water storage and remediation.
  233. We are sort of dealing
    with all of the waste and the composting.
  234. And we also have some backup farming
  235. with aeroponics and hydroponics.
  236. So imagine almost like a vertical section
    through this landscape
  237. that goes from the air above,
    where we have vertical farms;
  238. below, we have the aeroponics
    and the aquaponics.
  239. Even further below,
    we have the ocean farms
  240. and where we tie the island to the ground,
  241. we're using biorock to create new reefs
    to regenerate habitat.
  242. So think of this
    small island for 300 people.

  243. It can then group together
    to form a cluster or a neighborhood
  244. that then can sort of group together
    to form an entire city for 10,000 people.
  245. And you can imagine
    if this floating city flourishes,
  246. it can sort of grow
    like a culture in a petri dish.
  247. So one of the first places
    we are looking at placing this,

  248. or anchoring this floating city,
  249. is in the Pearl River delta.
  250. So imagine this kind of canopy
    of photovoltaics
  251. on this archipelago floating in the sea.
  252. As you sail towards the island,
    you will see the maritime residents
  253. moving around on alternative forms
    of aquatic transportation.
  254. You come into this kind of community port.
  255. You can roam around
    in the permaculture gardens
  256. that are productive landscapes,
    but also social landscapes.
  257. The greenhouses also become orangeries
    for the cultural life of the city,
  258. and below, under the sea,
  259. it's teeming with life
    of farming and science
  260. and social spaces.
  261. So in a way, you can imagine
    this community port
  262. is where people gather,
    both by day and by night.
  263. And even if the first one
    is designed for the tropics,
  264. we also imagine that the architecture
    can adapt to any culture,
  265. so imagine, like,
    a Middle Eastern floating city
  266. or Southeast Asian floating city
  267. or maybe a Scandinavian
    floating city one day.
  268. So maybe just to conclude.

  269. The human body is 70 percent water.
  270. And the surface of our planet
    is 70 percent water.
  271. And it's rising.
  272. And even if the whole world
    woke up tomorrow
  273. and became carbon-neutral over night,
  274. there are still island nations
    that are destined to sink in the seas,
  275. unless we also develop alternate forms
    of floating human habitats.
  276. And the only constant
    in the universe is change.
  277. Our world is always changing,
    and right now, our climate is changing.
  278. No matter how critical
    the crisis is, and it is,
  279. this is also our collective
    human superpower.
  280. That we have the power to adapt to change
  281. and we have the power
    to give form to our future.
  282. (Applause)